If you are young, you might not know what “double plus ungood” means. It’s Newspeak, from the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. It means terrible; very bad. I first read Orwell’s novel when I was in my early teens (I think, it’s all a bit fuzzy these days), and by the time the actual 1984 rolled around, I was 26 years old, and everyone was having fun with jokes about Big Brother and all the rest. Magazine covers all did plays on the novel. People were still optimistic then, and relieved, I think, that Orwell’s novel hadn’t come true. It hadn’t come true in 1984, but it rather looks like we’re heading that way in 2016. Today, I’m 59 years old, and the gift I’d like the most is to have that optimism back.
Friday evening, the Washington Post reported that about 100 foreign diplomats gathered at President-elect Donald Trump’s hotel in Washington, DC to “to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. president-elect’s newest hotel.” The tour included a look at the hotel’s $20,000 a night “town house” suite. The Post also quoted some of the diplomats saying they intended to stay at the hotel in order to ingratiate themselves to the incoming president.
The incoming president, in other words, is actively soliciting business from agents of foreign governments. Many of these agents, in turn, said that they will accept the president-elect’s offer to do business because they want to win favor with the new leader of the United States.
In an exclusive exchange with ThinkProgress, Richard Painter, a University of Minnesota law professor who previously served as chief ethics counsel to President George W. Bush, says that Trump’s efforts to do business with these diplomats is at odds with a provision of the Constitution intended to prevent foreign states from effectively buying influence with federal officials.
The Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause,” provides that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under” the United States “shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
The diplomats’ efforts in seek Trump’s favor by staying in his hotel “looks like a gift,” Painter told ThinkProgress in an email, and thus is the very kind of favor the Constitution seeks to prevent.
Emolument. There’s a new one for the vocabulary.
…Assuming that Trump does not divest from his hotel, however, it may prove difficult to enforce the Constitution against him. There are few court cases dealing with the Emoluments Clause. Typically, the country has relied on internal safeguards within the executive branch and fear of political embarrassment to prevent violations by the president. […] There is, however, at least one remedy under the Constitution for such a violation of the public trust by the president: impeachment.
I think we can rule out any fear of political embarrassment on the part of Trump or his appointees. They don’t seem to be capable of such a sense. The possibility of impeachment might get through to one of them, but whether or not it gets through to Trump is a different story, as right now it appears as though he doesn’t understand the slightest thing about politics or government. As I noted in a previous post, It’s becoming increasingly clear that Trump does not plan to work as a president, or to treat the presidency as an actual political office. The full story is at Think Progress, well worth reading. Also see: Government watchdogs demand Trump put business holdings in ‘blind trust’.
Most people know that Trump frequently yelled about the Affordable Care Act, and often promised to repeal it. Trump also made the high cost of prescription drugs a central theme in his campaign. Now that the campaign is over, Trump has walked back a tiny bit on gutting ACA, at least for now, and guess who is helping him with the high cost of drugs? Pharmaceutical companies. Isn’t that comforting…
But the president-elect appears to have downgraded plans to act aggressively to control rising drug prices, an early victory for the pharmaceutical industry and another illustration of the influence of lobbyists on the new Trump administration, despite Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp” of special interests in Washington.
Trump, who once made the cost of pharmaceuticals a central part of his campaign health care pitch, hasn’t mentioned the subject since the election, even though the issue is consistently cited as the top health care problem Americans want fixed.
And Trump’s transition health care agenda makes no mention of drug prices, though it lists six other health care priorities, including restricting abortion, speeding federal approval of new drugs and restructuring Medicare and Medicaid.
The Trump transition team did not respond to questions about the new administration’s prescription-drug agenda. But the drug industry’s allies, including lobbyists and senior elected officials who have received hundreds of thousands of dollars in industry money, are taking important roles in the transition and in work on the 2017 agenda.
Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s political career, for example, has long been supported by pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, which is based in his home state of Indiana. The drugmaker, through its political action committee and employees, is Pence’s third-largest all-time political contributor, according to the independent Center for Responsive Politics.
Pence is leading the Trump transition.
Other key figures in Trump’s circle of advisers have included a former executive at drugmakers Pfizer and Celgene and the chairman of Williams & Jensen, a Washington lobbying firm. According to federal reports, Williams and Jensen’s clients in recent years have included 11 of the world’s largest drugmakers, including Pfizer, Novartis, AstraZeneca, Merck and Bayer.
There was a mouthful of doublespeak from PhRMA CEO Steve Ubl:
“We look forward to working with the new administration, as well as members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to advance pragmatic solutions that enhance the private market, improve patient access to care and foster the development of innovative medicines,” Ubl said.
Full story here.
Then there’s the issue of torture. Oh pardon, I meant enhanced interrogation. Trump is all for torture, loves it to pieces, and thinks waterboarding simply isn’t tough enough. This, from a man who is so upset by the play Hamilton, he’s obsessed with tweeting about it. John McCain, freaking John McCain has issued an absolute no when it comes to torture.
Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain fired a shot across the president-elect’s bow on Saturday when he said that under no conditions will the U.S. return to its “enhanced interrogation techniques” like waterboarding under a Pres. Donald Trump.
Politico said McCain was speaking at the annual Halifax International Security Forum when he told the audience, “I don’t give a damn what the president of the United States wants to do. We will not waterboard. We will not torture people…It doesn’t work.”
On Friday, Trump announced Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) as his choice to head the CIA. Pompeo has defended the Bush administration’s illegal interrogations, saying that waterboarding does not rise to the level of torture.
Some security officials have predicted that members of the armed forces will refuse to obey orders if the Trump administration orders them to resume torturing detainees.
One can only hope. Full story here.
Richard Spencer, in spite of his twitter ban, which he said was worse than death, is going full steam ahead with his plans the new white supremacist order.
WASHINGTON — Inside a beige meeting room at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the buttoned-down millennials, in their dark suits and ties, settled in for the long conference day ahead.
The agenda topics: “Trump and the New White Voter,” “America and the Jewish Consciousness,” “The Future of the Alt-Right.”
This was the white nationalist lobby — the “alt-right” — coming to town for a victory lap after Donald Trump’s election, assuming what they see as their rightful place influencing the new administration.
“An awakening among everyone has occurred with this Trump election,” Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist think tank, said during opening remarks. “We’re not quite the establishment now, but I think we should start acting like it.”
Sitting around conference tables, the formally dressed men more resembled Washington lobbyists than the robed Ku Klux Klansmen or skinhead toughs that often represent white supremacists, though they share many familiar views.
This new generation is aiming to influence Washington in Washington’s own ways: churning out position papers, lobbying lawmakers and, and perhaps most importantly, removing the cloak of anonymity to fully join the national political conversation.
Full story here.
Meanwhile, our President-elect is busying himself with dissing Saturday Night Live on twitter, because fuck knows, that’s the really important stuff.